Kit and Ace store in Minneapolis carries T-shirts
in a new blend called Qemir. They will also host
monthly supper clubs with fare from local chefs.
ó The family that persuaded women to dole out $100 for
yoga pants is now hoping to do the same with T-shirts.
son and wife of the founder of Lululemon are in the
midst of an aggressive rollout of a new concept called
Kit and Ace. Itís predicated on a new cashmere blend
material that is both soft and machine washable and is
aimed at well-heeled young adults.
shirts, priced at $68 to $138, are for people who have a
"full-contact life" and want clothes that will
hold up, said JJ Wilson, one of the brandís
co-founders and a self-professed T-shirt junkie.
launching last year, Wilson, and his stepmother, Shannon
Wilson, have opened seven Kit and Ace stores. The Twin
Cities is one of the first metro areas in the U.S.
outside of New York and San Francisco to get one. One
opened recently and will be followed by a second
location at the Mall of America in the fall.
duo are moving fast with plans to open at least another
15 other stores this summer in the U.S. and with hopes
to get to 50 stores by the middle of next year,
including outposts in Australia and Japan.
have money," JJ Wilson said in an interview when
asked how the company is able to grow so fast. "We
are 100 percent self-financed. But I donít think we
would go into such an aggressive expansion if we didnít
see such excitement in the first few months."
Wilson family has invested about $7 million in Kit and
Ace thus far.
Wilson doesnít shy away from the fact that Kit and Ace
has borrowed a bit from the Lululemon playbook, noting
that there was a lot to learn from the $1.8 billion
sportswear company that now has more than 300 stores.
addition to sharing a founding family, both Lululemon
and Kit and Ace are based in Vancouver. They both focus
on technical fabrics with similar, relatively high,
they both invite customers into their stores to do more
than shop. While Lululemon hosts yoga classes, Kit and
Ace hosts monthly supper clubs where local chefs provide
say this to everyone, including my friends: I love
Lululemon," Wilson said. "Our intention has
never been to compete with Lululemon. We see it as a
complement. We see it as the same guy and girl who wears
Kit and Ace during the day and then sweats in Lululemon."
Wilsons say they originally presented the technical
cashmere fabric called "Qemir" to Lululemon,
but the company apparently wasnít interested. So they
decided to launch it on their own as a separate company.
Wilson was one of Lululemonís original and lead
designers. JJ Wilson, 26, worked at Lululemon for a
couple of years and notes that the company was like a
"third parent" for him growing up. His family
still owns about 15 percent of Lululemonís stock.
declined to comment.
Wilsonís father, Chip, is the founder of Lululemon
whose comments about its see-through pants controversy
in 2013 was followed soon after by his resignation as
the companyís chairman. He serves as an adviser to Kit
and Ace, but is not involved in its day-to-day
ask him a lot of questions," said JJ Wilson.
"The man is so brilliant we would be foolish not
asked if Kit and Ace could one day be as big as
Lululemon, Wilson shrugged.
Winder, a senior adviser for retail consulting firm J.C.
Williams Group, said he doubts that it could grow that
large, noting that the newer venture has a more niche
market. But he gives Kit and Ace high marks for a sound
concept with good-looking clothes that is branching off
from athletic clothes.
smart," he said. "The folks at Kit and Ace are
going the other way. They are saying that is a crowded
space, so weíre going into the streetwear market with
a differentiated material. Itís going against the
Winder added, Kit and Ace stores have a much different
you go to Lululemon, itís all about color and flash
ó all of the colors of the rainbow," he said.
"At Kit and Ace, most of the products are white,
gray and black. It has a street and urban feel."
it expands, Kit and Ace is mostly opening pop-up
studios. But the newest 2,900-square-foot store could
last a couple of years and even become a permanent spot,
intention behind the studio is that we can get in, test
the market, see how people react to the brand," he
said. "We go in a bit light."
the stores currently have mostly T-shirts, he said the
assortment will be expanded this summer to include
bottoms, outerwear and other tops.
store has some local flavor in the form of artwork and
fixtures by local designers, including the square tables
in the middle of the stores that will be the center of
the monthly supper clubs. At those events, there will be
no hard sell on Kit and Ace clothes, Wilson said.
Rather, those events are centered around the idea that
just as washable cashmere is a luxury, so too are
"real conversations" these days.
you go to dinner, everyone is on their iPhone," he